28 Nov Bio Column- Talent Attraction, Development & Retention in New Orleans

talentIn the field of economic development, business attraction and talent attraction form a virtuous cycle. A strong pipeline of talent in a city begets new businesses, and a diverse footprint of businesses with regional presence and operational functions brings more talent to a city. This explains why, despite higher costs, businesses still consider it worth their while to have some presence in regions known for leading higher education institutions. The coasts are an example.

Not surprisingly, talent attraction, development and retention is an important pillar of programmatic focus for the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA). NOLABA recently convened a group of high-profile thought leaders from across business and public services for a symposium titled Winning in the Talent Marketplace. This event brought together stakeholders to advance talent attraction and retention strategies for area businesses and the City of New Orleans. Speakers included Tim Daly (EdNavigator), Kevin Dawson (GE Digital), Matt Findley (inXile Entertainment), Franck LaBiche (Laitram) and Linda Brenner & Tom McGuire (Talent Growth Advisors).

New Orleans has nine institutions of higher education–and is one of only 15 cities in the U.S. with two medical schools. However, it sometimes goes unnoticed that New Orleans is a college town at its heart. While these institutions provide the city with a critical mass of talented professionals, there is a concentration of talent both in the early career stages and the advanced professional stages. This presents an opportunity for us, as a city, to strengthen the core, or in this case, supplant this wealth of talent with middle management cadre professionals. In the true style of a public-private partnership, and as, once again, a facilitator of critical dialogue, NOLABA brought together on Sept. 28 experts and decision makers to discuss and ideate on this vital wheel of economic development.

In addition to facilitating discussion on best practices and innovative ways to advance talent attraction and retention strategies, NOLABA also walks the walk by bringing in exceptional talent from across the country to learn about opportunities to create new industry and prosper in New Orleans. This fall, NOLABA welcomed two Venture for America fellows to its team– Vanderbilt graduate Thomas Krumins and Columbia graduate Sally Lindsay. Lindsay is especially involved in health & bioinnovation initiatives, including the New Orleans Health Innovators Challenge (NOLAHI). Venture for America was founded in 2011 to pair smart, ambitious college graduates with startup opportunities in 18 U.S. cities, and NOLABA is one of 15 New Orleans organizations currently hosting VFA fellows. The fellowship is a two-year full-time engagement between the fellow and the host organization. The intended outcome is for talented graduates to move to cities where economic growth is trending upward and by moving there, to help catalyze that growth, making their mark on startups in those cities. Many fellows go on to make their assigned cities their professional homes, starting businesses of their own or growing existing businesses, and being the vehicles of talent attraction/retention and idea exchange.

In partnership with our area businesses and public institutions, NOLABA hopes to identify many more mechanisms of talent attraction and retention in its quest to write New Orleans’ future as a thriving city for business. These programs I’ve outlined are just the beginning, so we welcome ideas from informed readers like you on how we can reach this goal.

Click here to see the column in Healthcare Journal of New Orleans’ November-December issue on page 54.